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Innovating in the Time of National Emergency: Manufacturing PPE during Covid-19, A Case Study

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Manufacturing Division Technical Session Innovative Pedagogy in Manufacturing Education

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Shuvra Das University of Detroit Mercy Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Shuvra Das started working at University of Detroit Mercy in January 1994 and is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Over this time, he served in a variety of administrative roles such as Mechanical Engineering Department Chair, Associate Dean for Research and Outreach, and Director of International Programs in the college of Engineering and Science. He has an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and Master’s and Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Iowa State University. Dr. Das teaches a variety of courses ranging from freshmen to advanced graduate level such as Mechanics of Materials, Introductory and Advanced Finite Element Method, Engineering Design, Introduction to Mechatronics, Mechatronic Modeling and Simulation, Mathematics for Engineers, Electric Drives and Electromechanical Energy Conversion. He led the effort in the college to start several successful programs: an undergraduate major in Robotics and Mechatronic Systems Engineering, a graduate certificate in Advanced Electric Vehicles. Dr. Das’s areas of research interests are modeling and simulation of multi-disciplinary engineering problems, modeling multi-physics problems in manufacturing, engineering education, and curriculum reform. He has authored or co-authored five books on these topics.

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Megan O. Conrad University of Detroit Mercy Orcid 16x16

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Megan Conrad is the Clare Boothe Luce Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Detroit Mercy. She received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University in 2009. Her research interests include applying principles of biomechanics, neuromechanics and ergonomics to assess human performance in healthy and disabled populations as it pertains to therapy, work and product design.

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Abstract We are living in difficult times. Since March 2020 the normal way of life has been interrupted by a worldwide pandemic, Covid-19. Apart from the illnesses’ effect on human health, lives of every living person have been altered significantly. Working from home has become a norm for those who can. Online learning, social and work-related gatherings on-line, socially distanced private and public interactions with others, all have become a norm in society. Challenging times result in hardships, difficulties, and disruptions but they also provide opportunities for innovation, creativity, and out-of-the-box solutions. The current times are no different. One area of innovation has been just-in-time manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Throughout the first several months of the pandemic there was a significant spike in the need for PPE so that health-care service providers could provide service and care to Covid patients without jeopardizing personal safety. Available resource stocks were depleting as new infections rose sharply. During this time people and companies with manufacturing expertise stepped up to help with the process of making PPE including masks, face shields, and other devices as well as critical life-saving equipment such as ventilators. Just as large manufacturing corporations repurposed their facilities to manufacture PPE equipment, individuals used home-based 3-D printing technology to make batches of vital PPE products to supply to local health-care facilities.

This paper explores that effort as a case study of distributed innovation in the face of a global emergency. In this paper, we evaluated the knowledge base that was developed as a result of the effort to produce PPE, collated information that is openly available for future developers to use, reviewed the issues that need to be considered by new manufacturers of PPE, and identified all the important lessons learned. This paper also charts a path demonstrating how to successfully design and fabricate PPE that meets requirements for use by the medical community. This case study can be used by students in design classes to replicate the process of PPE development as well as develop new ideas of improvement that will help us in future.

Das, S., & Conrad, M. O. (2021, July), Innovating in the Time of National Emergency: Manufacturing PPE during Covid-19, A Case Study Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37339

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